aas-flood-cover
Some people in Allandale to this day get very anxious when there is a hard rain. I am referring to those hit by the Memorial Day Flood that roared down on the city and brought death and destruction along Shoal Creek on a Sunday night, May 24, 1981. It turned stretches of Shoal Creek and Lamar into a river. On Bullard Drive, where homes back up to the creek, the water flowed down the street and into the homes  from all sides. The image above is the front page of the Austin American-Statesman from the Tuesday morning edition. The headline from the newspaper the morning after the flood only reported 9 deaths.

What follows are the stories from residents in Allandale who shared their experiences of the 1981 flood with the “Allandale Neighbor.” The Flood changed the neighborhood. It is a night no one living near Shoal Creek at the time will forget.

Thanks to everyone who submitted their story and contributed their clippings and photos. If you would like share your story, please email it to allandalereporter [Email address: allandalereporter #AT# yahoo.com - replace #AT# with @ ] or leave it as a comment to this article.

Tom Linehan


My Flood Story
Fina Mae Ross
6600 Shoal Creek
March 1, 2009

fina-ross-floodI had been living on Shoal Creek Boulevard for eight months when it started raining. It had been raining more than normal for about sixteen days, when on May 24, 1981, the Memorial Day weekend, it started raining harder than I had ever experienced in my life. A girlfriend and her three small children had been my room mates for several months, and had just moved out two weeks earlier. I had cleaned up all day, and had put out several “roach motels” to trap the critters stirred up by the whole thing.
My cat, Munchen, a black and white male who had survived a trip to Mexico with me several years earlier, was quite fond of the big back yard sweeping under the beautiful big trees. Around 8 PM I was getting ready for bed, and noticed the immense back yard seemed unusually brilliant under the large street light, with the rain poring down in a memorable torrent. When I came into the living room I noticed a bit of water coming in under the back door. When I got closer I could see that the back yard was covered completely and water was already up to the back of the house. I went to the garage and the water was above the running board of my new Ford F 150 pickup in the driveway, so I realized I could  not drive it to get away if I wanted to. I began to move my books and stereo and things below my waist to higher tables, thinking it was going to only come up a little further.

But, as the water came up to my knees all my efforts were in vain, for it kept coming up and became very forceful, so I found my cat in my bedroom and put him up in the top of the closet.  By this time the water was up to my waist. My guitar was floating, so I put it on a long foam bolster pillow, and it continued to float.  The water was coming in through the wall in the garage that the force of the water had bust open. It was getting about chest deep, and I finally said to myself : “This is a serious FLOOD” !

I knew it was God’s will , whatever it was, and I decided it was going to be a very “cleansing” event; a major tragedy, because I had just paid off my Olivetti electric typewriter, my new stereo, and a new Bernina sewing machine after three years on layaway.  It was hard to accept, but the inevitable force of the water was overwhelmingly convincing of its Reality.   My cat litter box floated by totally dry inside !   I guess the lip held air so it was buoyant.  Several of the roach motels floated by completely dry, and I remember laughing at the incredible irony of my plight and the absurdity of the stuff floating by.

The water was gushing down the hallway from the garage and kitchen and out the window in the back bedroom.  My bedroom door was to the side, so the major flow of the water went past it. I decided to go in there and shut the door.  My parents had just bought me a new waterbed base ( without the water mattress) and as the bed had storage drawers under it,  the stuff in there was making the whole thing float.

The water was getting very deep by this time, almost up to my neck.  It was becoming somewhat daunting.

I had $600 cash in a book in my bedroom and I found it floating with the pages  fluffed like a fan and I snatched it up knowing I would really need that when it was all said and done.  I had put my purse up in the top of the closet with my cat so I put the wet book up there ,too.

I had no way of knowing how deep it would get.  It was raining very hard, and I had no desire to get out in it and the creek had now become a raging river.  I really wanted to stay with my stuff to see what I could do to help.  I was surprised the electricity stayed on with water way above the wall plugs , and I could feel some waves of shocks in the current when I got close to certain items.

As I sat on my floating bed, and the ceiling got closer and closer I became more anxious, as I thought it might be difficult to get out if it got above the windows. The large window on the side of the house where the water was exiting was pulsing, visibly, and the movement of the current meeting on the back of the house was pushing back on the glass of my bedroom window . The pulsing movement was surprising, because it was pulsing so noticeably from the force of the water .  I was very concerned that it would bust open the glass and ” all hell would break loose “. That was probably the most scary thing besides the fact that the water was rising so high that the ceiling was just a foot or so above my head.

About the time I  was starting to freak out a little I noticed a line of debris forming across the wall. The water had come up very fast, but it had taken about four hours to get to this stage. Then, it started to go down, suddenly, and it really went down much, much faster.  By midnight the water had gone down, although it was still raining a little.

There was mud all over everything, a fine brown silky silt all over everything. Everything was jumbled up, things twined around each other like a large mass of tangles, indistinguishable objects that had once been my ordered life.  I was very grateful that Brenda and her three children were not caught in the middle of this. She did not have much, and her children would have been traumatized, if not in peril for their lives.

Suddenly the fire department men were coming in and told me I had to get out. That is when I realized I did not have any clothes on, so I scrambled to get my act together. I told them I wanted to stay so I could clean up everything and save what I could. They said NO, that I had to get out, but I did not have anywhere to go. So, they found a neighbor across the street that said I could stay there for a few days. They told me they were very concerned about me because only the very top of my truck was visible from across the street.

fina-mae-floodI stayed for several weeks, actually, with my cat in a closet still in shock, and their son loaned me the high top sneakers I have on in the picture that the Austin American Statesman took the next day when they came by to document what had happened the night before.  Friends and strangers were arriving and driving down the road clearing debris so that the city could get in there.

The picture the reporter took of me wound up on the front page of the paper the next day, pointing to the demarcation line of debris, in the size 11 high top tennis shoes, that many who knew me found very funny because I endeavored to be a fashion designer in those days, hand painting the fabrics and finding sponsors for the fashion shows in local restaurants.

Brenda’s brother, Steven, had helped her move out, and he had stored five large paintings I had done while getting my Fine Arts Degree at UT in a niche in the garage, placed so strategically that they did not even move as they fit snuggly in that niche. They washed off beautifully and hardly show signs of the flood. A signed print that Salvador Dali had given me when a friend in Spain interviewed him had been just at the water level on the wall and some muddy water had seeped between the glass. It is a print of  “St. John of the Cross”, signed by DALI and dedicated to Fina Mae Ross. I still have it on my wall, hanging  with more character in the story that it tells with the water marks and stains surrounding the figure of Christ.

In the interview with the Austin Statesman the next day I remember thinking how lucky I was to be so young and so I had only lost a few years of memories compared to a couple in their sixties who had lost an entire lifetime of photographs, books, furniture and so forth…. I knew this was a 100  year flood, and realized that the last time this happened was probably before written record, and probably the Native Americans lived there, and they had the sense not to build there and would have known to move their tents to higher ground.

I found out that the damage closer to the Colorado was quite severe, at 21 feet above normal.  Fifteen people had died, most of them trying to cross low water areas in their cars. One man was left at 21 feet hanging on a telephone pole on Lamar, where all the used car lots were emptied into the river.  A friend of mine whose family lived off Jefferson told me the story of how their 21 year old daughter was at home and the force of the water was pulling her out the window horizontally, but she held on to the window jam and saved her life.  Their piano was found in a tree down stream at 16 feet above the ground.

The next day the sun came out for the first time in two weeks.  It was a relief so that maybe my stuff could be saved and have a chance dry out. The sun was warm and beautiful, and you would never have known what happened that night anywhere else in Austin, unless you happened to drive down Shoal Creek Boulevard or South Lamar.

My cat was in shock for three days, his eyes as big as saucers, and he did not want to come down from the top of the closet.   I remember laughing at him when the water got up to my shoulders… he climbed onto one of the foam bolster pillows that was on my bed, floating now at chest level ,and he was frantically scratching at the door and looking back at me  as if to say : ” What have you done now ? Left the tub running over ? ”

I tried to find the humor and the positive side of this adversity.  I could not control the water, or any of the events, and had to find the strength of mind to accept.

I get quotes from a wise friend for Christmas each year instead of a typical card:

” Every trouble is an opportunity to win the grace of strength”.
(George Hodges,The Treasure Chest, 1965)

Another : ” It is folly to fight with the infinite,
And go under at last in the wrestle;
The wiser man shapes into God’s plan
As water shapes into a vessel.”
( Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Tony’s Scrap Book, 1930)

I am still working on that.

Fina Mae Ross
March 1, 2009

Fina Mae’s response to my question about whether she still lives at the house that was flooded and whether she had a scan of the full Statesman article:

No. I am no longer living there…..I was renting, and owner had to do a lot of stuff to it….it was at the corner of TwinOaks…They bull dozed the two houses North  and now that area is a a park South of the Pease Park bridge….will have to drive by to get the address, guess it was not something I wanted to remember !  I do have the article, but don’t know where it is….I looked for it, but remembered I had scanned it…..Will look !  Fina Ross


From Helen Paust
Pinccrest Dr.
3.3.09

May 24, 1981, I was working at Shoal Creek Hospital, 3-11 shift. we heard the rain so the patients were looking out windows to watch the creek rise. Several shouted that a couch and other furniture had floated by a patient who was out on pass called to report he couldn’t get back on time due to the flood at Shoal Creek Blvd. I was skeptical but accepted his excuse.

About 10 p.m. my son called and said: “Don’t try to come home. Shoal Creek Blvd was flooded at Pinecrest.” The rain subsided by 2:30 a.m. and I drove home via MoPac.

The next day as I went to work, along Shoal Creek Blvd., furniture and rugs were out on lawns, hopingthey would dry and be salvageble. Gibsons must have done a fantastic business selling brooms, mops, buckets and detergent.

The valley behind Shoal Creek Hospital had several cars that had floated there. The creek had risen to the foundation of the hospital.

Shoal Creek has had much work done so this kind of disaster to occur again is remote.

Helen Paust, RN, retired
Pinecrest Dr


May ’81 Flood
Judy Forgason
2.22.09

My story isn’t very exciting, but one for which I am grateful:

In May ’81, I was a 3rd year student at the UT Medical School in Houston. Eight of us were in Austin doing a 2 month rotation in obstetrics/gynecology at Brackenridge Hospital, living in school-subsidized apartments on Greystone.

The night of the flood, I was “on call” at Brackenridge, up all night helping deliver babies. Few of us knew of the devastation until the next day. Although I groused at the time about missing all the action, I realize now just how lucky I was!

Sincerely,
Judy Forgason, MD
23 year Allandale resident


The Memorial Day Flood
From Paulette Kern
Twin Oaks
3.16.09

I remember the Memorial Day Flood.  That Sunday afternoon, our adult Sunday School Class had a picnic at Northwest Park and played volleyball.  As we gathered our things to head home, we saw the thunderclouds gathering and commented on what great timing it was as our picnic ended.  It was raining hard as we went to bed that night but we had no idea how severe things were. The next morning, a neighbor came over and said that fire dept. was looking for bodies at the bottom of the hill (Twin Oaks) in the creek.  We were shocked.  In the days and weeks that followed, neighbors pitched in to help each other.  A couple at the corner of Cavalier and Shoal Creek who had escaped the water rise opened her home every day to volunteers to come and help make sandwiches, pack up drinks and snacks and take it around to the homes where families were cleaning out debris.

Paulette
Twin Oaks


Surviving the 1981 Memorial Day Flood
Barbara vonMerz
Bullard Dr.
3.9.09

barbara-vonI had quite a bit of damage. There was four feet of water at my windows, and then it started seeping through the house. My garage had 6 feet of water. I lost my freezer, refrigerator, lawn mower, automobile just about everything in my garage. The water was flowing down the street. The creek bed bends but the water didn’t. It was a river down Bullard Drive. The only cars that could get through were fire trucks. There was one parked right across the street on Rickey. For some reason my phone was still on. Some neighbors called me and the firemen got on the phone and wanted me to come out of the house and work my way across the street. I said, “You have got to be kidding. Have you seen what is in this water, refrigerators, people’s wood piles…I’m not getting out in that. That will be the kiss of death.” The fireman said, “We’ll throw a rope over and walk you across.” They called back later and said they have decided that it was too dangerous for the firemen. So I just stayed here.

It started about 8:00 p.m. I had never heard rain that loud. It just went on and on for hours. It was scary. All of my children lived out of town at the time and I called them all around 2:30 in the morning to tell them goodbye and that I loved them. There was nothing they could do. I just wanted them to hear my voice one more time.

I saw water seeping in at the 6 foot level of my utility room door and I knew that I was not opening that door. I was just hoping it would hold. Same with the front door. If I had opened the door. The only way I knew about the water was I saw this funny line against the window. I looked closer and realized that it was the water level. The water was flowing from the front through the house. Sometime around 4:00 a.m. I noticed it started to recede. I then laid down for about an hour and remember waking up thinking I was dreaming and saying to myself what a nightmare I just had. I got up and put my feet over the side of the bed into mud and realized it wasn’t a nightmare.

I had a lot friends who just showed up the next morning. A friend who was a builder brought his workers and showed up at around 7:00 to help out. My employer loaned me a truck and we loaded up my furniture for storage. For the next month, I spent most of my time cleaning up, clearing out the mud. The first thing I did was get the mud out, then cloroxed the entire slab. They took the sheetrock off up to 4 feet high. There was flood insurance available back then but it was not mandatory like it is now and I could not afford it.

The following week we had 7 more inches of rain. I remember getting up in the attic when it started raining again. I remember parking my car up on Rickey because I had lost my other car when it flooded. The neighbor’s station wagon floated down into the creek and took off two big limbs from my oak tree. Their red shed ended up in my neighbor’s yard. Later in the day. CNN was here and I did an interview with them. Friends came by in their work clothes. It was nice. Really lovely people…my friends that came to help.

Barbara vonMerz

Bullard Dr.


The Flood
Allan McMurtry
Cary Drive
March 31, 2009

The Memorial Day Flood had the localized impact of Hurricane Katrina.  The difference for most of us was that we could find high, if not dry ground.  But for those within the 100 to 500 year flood plain along Shoal Creek, that was not an option.  In some cases people found out too late that they were in the 100 year flood plain:  part of the issue was debris, part was geography.

On that May 25th night, I was resting on my laurels, as I had just taken off half of our old gravel roof and stacked it in piles in the driveway (just one of the many mistakes that day).  It had been hot and muggy all day, and in 1981, the news and radar now readily available on the TV was just in some technician’s brain.  Any proclamation of heavy rain didn’t reach me as I toiled on the roof with a wheat shovel and diet Cokes.

As the afternoon wore on, I decided that taking off the entire roof in light of more clouds than usual didn’t make sense, so I started laying down the tarpaper past mid afternoon.  I did have the big silver dollar washers to nail through to hold the paper, but I couldn’t get a good fit along the edges of the gravel roof and the new tarpaper.

I finished as the clouds began to gather, and felt that maybe I should nail the tarpaper over the edge of the roof and down onto the fascia board.  When that was done, I had about run out of time to perform other options.

As I recall, it was after 9PM that the real rain began coming down.  At first I paid no attention to the rain amount, as I was mostly worried about leaks.  I shouldn’t have worried, the leaks were guaranteed.  The light in our bedroom, the wall on the west side, the sill over the kitchen door, all sprouted small rivulets of water as did minor artesian wells in strange places.  We began to man pots and pans, darting from one room to the other, stumbling over our 2 and 3 year old sons.

As the pace quickened, I went out to the garage to see if we had any bigger buckets.  I stepped into a 4” deep current running under the closed garage doors through the garage and out the door into the garage from the kitchen.  That was a welcome change.  Now it wasn’t just my oak flooring that was getting wet, it was also all the tools and gadgets on the floor of the garage up to 4”.  I raced around the outside to find that the pile of gravel had made a wonderful dam that now sent a sheet of water straight into the double garage doors.  I looked NE from the garage to see that my neighbor’s yard had turned into Lake Eerie emptying on to my driveway and through the garage.  I tried to move the gravel with the wheat shovel, but my wife needed help saving the flooring, ceiling, waters, cat, kids, and cupboards.  Besides, I think if had looked up that night, I would have drown just from the rain pelting down.

Racing back into the house, I made a mental note that this was a pretty intense rain and showed no signs of letting up.  As the pots and pans banged from floor to sink and back and as the mops made an appearance, I noticed a growing crescendo of rain on the roof.  I had never in my life heard that much rain hitting any roof.  Rain didn’t make that much noise.  At that moment, I understood a new level of concern.  This was unusual.  This was loud.  I was like rolling empty 50 gal barrels down a street. I tried to figure out what bad thing could happen from this, but couldn’t conceive of the roof collapsing.  Maybe the water in the garage would roll up over the foundation and into the house.  I couldn’t do anything about that, all I could do is help Nancy transfer pots and look for new leaks.  In between we moped and threw towels onto puddles.

I was amazed that the tarpaper was holding as well as it had, and I did worry that if the garaged flooding didn’t swamp us, the tarpaper would tear off and we’d be inundated from above.  But the paper held, and held.  I tried going back out to move gravel, but the volume of water was so heavy, I could hardly stand, much less see.

I’m not sure how long this lasted, maybe 30 minutes maybe an hour, but the noise slowly began to lift.  As that dissipated, I began to have an understanding of the ferocity of the storm.  But still, the worse thing I could envision was the improbable collapse of the roof, something I kept at bay with simple physics.  As the rivulets slowed, I could step out back and take a survey of the garage and whatever else might need my attention.

I heard this dull, deep-throated roar.  Surely planes wouldn’t be up in this storm, but it sounded like a large plane passing over as I rounded the corner of my house.  I stared up, for no good reason, and then I stared west toward Shoal Creek.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  Oh, my god.  That’s Shoal Creek.  I had been to Niagara Falls.

I knew people on Shoal Creek.  I knew that noise like that didn’t come from a stream.  It came from huge rivers smashing trees and uprooting boulders.  I remembered a 100 year flood on a creek in Arkansas.  I remembered staring into the raging waters clawing half way up a 40’ embankment, and stretching 200-300 yards across open fields.

I ran into the house and asked Nancy if she had the leaks under control.  She didn’t, and the kids and wet towels made things even worse.  Here her tidy house was turning into soggy sheetrock, and I was asking if she had it under control.  I told her to come outside.  She heard the noise immediately and asked me what that was.  “Shoal Creek.”  Her eyes widened.

In was in those same minutes that Charlie and Dinah Guerrerro had decided they needed to leave their house backing up on Shoal Creek.  The neighbors next door had small children, and Charles, a big man, and Dinah were worried about them.  Along with me, he was the co-President of Allandale at the time, and had spent more than a few hours helping people and the community out.  He made sure Dinah reached solid ground and turned back to toward the neighbor’s house.

The issue they were facing was two-fold.  The water blasting down from Shoal Creek as far north as the Pickle Research Center was augmented by at least the same volume of water smashing down from the west, down Spicewood Springs Road and small canyons along the Edwards Plateau.  The volume of water was unfathomable.  As big trees were torn out of the ground, they lodged against the bridges, diverting the water around the bridges.  If you were unlucky enough to be on the low side of the bank, that water was now a threat to your life.  Worse still, the water was sheeting of yards, driveways and streets coming into Bullard Drive from the west, racing into Shoal Creek between the houses.

As the water stacked up on the White Rock bridge over Shoal Creek it burst is banks and headed west.  The first house south of that bridge took a direct hit from the roaring creek, it smashed a hole in the side of the house and rushed out the windows on the opposite side.  The owners made for the trees, holding on literally for dear life.

The Zinsmeyer’s house was some 5 to 6 houses south of the bridge.  Lois and her husband Herb were not there, but three of their boys were.  As the rain pounded down, they became worried about the creek some 75’ to the east of the house and maybe 10-12’ below it.  Staring out the windows at the creek, they heard a loud crashing sound behind them.  The low windows had given way from the water surging down Bullard, fighting to get back to low ground and the creek.  By this time, the water was probably 6’ or more over the bridge railings of the White Rock bridge, bellowing, foaming, churning, crushing its way toward the lows spots at Jefferson and later on Lamar between 10th and 6th street.  But it wasn’t easy getting there, trees had to be moved, cars washed aside, plants and earth, boulders and people hurled before it.

Charlie saw his next door neighbors fighting the current surging back toward the creek.  He waded into it almost waist high, grabbing the hands of the kids and the wife while the father held the other.  As Charlie described it to me later the next day in reserved, almost unbelieving tones, he wasn’t sure how many of them would make it in the darkness up to higher ground.   It could be that if Charlie had been 15 pounds lighter or 15 pounds less strong or 1/100th of a soul less resolute, more people would have died that night.  The same can be said for the parents of the kids.

As they struggled to reach the other side of the street amid the fast moving water, they were soaked to the bone, cold, and bereft of a place to stay.  The water would rise to between 2-4’ in each of their houses, turning furniture into rotting wood and leaving a muddy, gooey sludge in all crevices through the house.  It would take months to repair the damage.

In the meantime, the Zinsmeyer boys realized that the house may or may not stay erect.  They had to get out.  The pickup in the drive way was too risky, so they had to brave the trip from the front door to higher ground across the street.  In the darkness, the view of life shrinks to a few feet, to inches, spreading occasionally to look at the safety of the neighbor’s lawn across the street, reflecting in the ghastly pull of the current, that black destructive force spreading across the lowland of Shoal Creek.

Who knows what the difference was between living or dead that night for these folks: a wrong decision, another ¼ inch of rain.  Whatever it was, its claws missed them that night, some undoubtedly by inches.  Unknown to them a couple had already perished off the Allandale bridge only minutes before and others had but minutes more to live down stream.

As I drove out my driveway, I headed toward Allandale Road, only to find the bridge completely gone under the roiling water.  My mind skipped immediately to the people I knew on the far side of Shoal Creek, I turned back north and went down White Rock, only to see the terrifying spectacle of the thundering water completely over the bridge.  The noise, the darkness, the fury of the water was stupefying.  It put a cold fear into the inner most caves of my being.  The first thing I thought about was being caught in that black, boiling water.  With the noise bouncing off the trees stretched over Shoal Creek, I headed north to see if I could get to the other side of the creek.  Within one block I encountered more water flooding over Shoal Creek Blvd.  I slowed and stopped.  Looking back to my left I saw a house, dimly lit, with a couple sitting high on a stone fence beside the garage.  Forced out of their house, they could not make it across the water now racing around their house.

A couple of other people were there now.  I got out of the car and made my way to the edge of the water.  It was as vicious here as it was slightly south and howling as madly.  Taking one too many steps into that current meant you were not coming back.  We were worried that the water would continue to rise, ultimately sweeping this couple to their deaths.  A brief time later a policeman arrived.  We discussed the situation, and he said if we could find a big rope, he would attempt to make it across to them.  A neighbor had a long, stout rope, and we fastened one end to the policeman while the three of us took hold of the other end.  As he made his way across, we held his lifeline.  Slowly he steadied the people as they made their way back, one at a time to shore.

In retrospect, we needed two long ropes.  But the creek was just deep and wide enough here that the combination we threw at the rising water worked.  We were lucky; the couple was lucky.

I left there and made my way south to John Panak’s house.  I worried they might be losing their foundation or parts of the house to the storm.  John answered the knock and invited me in.  Walking back to the back windows of their house, we looked out at the water pouring out the windows of the house across the way.  We could talk to each other by yelling.  Nobody knew if the people across the way were in danger or not.  We were helpless to do anything.  But I knew that nobody was crossing Shoal Creek that night.  Water was everywhere.  The safest place was finding high ground and staying there.  Fire truck couldn’t easily navigate the City, how could we.

I left Panak’s house to go back to mine to help Nancy wring our house out the best we could.  Tomorrow would be another day, a day of harrowing tales, of sweltering heat and humidity of site-seers gawking at those trying to find their belongings amid the mud.  It would entail squeegeeing up mud and muck from carpets and carports, from garages and tool sheds; holding hands and patting people on the back who stared blankly at Herculean tasks before them, their beds decked in mud and debris, their clothes already beginning to mold in the closets.

It was a long Memorial Day for those close to Shoal Creek.  Everybody’s life had changed that lived near there.  No longer was the creek seen solely as a lazy ribbon of tree shadows that sometimes flowed and sometimes didn’t.  It would always remain slightly malevolent and lonely from then on for those who made their way down to it that loud, dark, and frightful night along Shoal Creek.


flood-aas

An Interview with Pat Cherico
Bullard Drive
April 9, 2009

Unlike Barbara vonMerz or Fina Mae Ross, Pat Cherico and her son John did not wait the flood out in their home the night of the flood. Her house was hit the hardest of all of the people I talked to. Pat said the water was so forceful against her house that staying in the house was not option. As you can see from the photo in the above article from the Austin American-Statesman, the side of her garage had been destroyed. She was afraid the water was going to pick up the entire house and set it adrift. Her and her 17-year old son decided their chances of survival were better if they got out of the house and tried to make it to safety. They exited through Pat’s bedroom sliding door on the south side of the house nearest the creek. The current between houses was less than on either side of them making it that the best approach. After leaving the house, they only made it as far as to a tree midway between her house and the street where they held on for dear life until they were rescued by the Firemen.

I asked Pat if she considered moving away after the flood? Clearly, she had to have second thoughts about her safety living there. She said in the 20 years she lived there prior to the flood, the water had never gotten close to her house. She knew this was a 100-year flood and the chances of it ever happening again during her lifetime were slim. Read the above article to get the details of what that night was like for Pat and her son.


Recollections of Memorial Day Flood
Gary Vliet
6407 Shoal Creek West Drive
March 24, 2009

We had been living here (6407 Shoal Creek West Dr.) since the fall of 1972, having come from California. There was a report in the evening of day before of heavy rain but of course we did not expect anything like what we got.  As I recall, late in the evening it began to come down in buckets, and since we live along Shoal Creek we were concerned about high water.  There had been some water in the yard on previous years.  In fact the house immediately across the creek from us had flood damage twice …. in the early seventies soon after we came.  I was watching the back yard periodically and not long before midnight I noticed water in the back yard.  I went out just a few minutes later and was surprised that the water was MUCH nearer the house.  We could see it creeping up the sloping lawn toward the house.  So we started getting important things up off the floor onto tables and counters.  We also called our two neighbors to alert them.  One couple had gone to bed and was not aware of the high water.  We thought of getting out of the house, but by that time there was a lot of water flowing down the street from runoff from the MoPac area ….. it couldn’t get into the creek so was flowing down the side-streets.  I clearly remember standing at our open back door at peak flood (rain had pretty much stopped by this time) and watching the water lap against the door sill and some of it slop over into the family room.  And that is as far as it got ….. at the peak the water was just level with the top of our slab and we did not get any flood damage inside.  Our garage floor was flooded with water even with the slab.  We were so fortunate!!!

Our next door neighbors to the north and south each got a few inches and the neighbors beyond (both north and south) sustained progressively more damage due to flood water.  Most of the flooding actually came from the street side, as the water coming from the MoPac area couldn’t get into the creek.  The water receded as fast as it rose, and within an hour after the peak, water had receded almost completely from our back yard.  Our only (and minor damage) was an old sheet metal garden shed getting washed away,  knocking down a side fence.  Side fences in fact were are real problem as they trapped flood materials and acted as wing-dams.  Also the box bridges that were common along the creek caught cars and trees and other large debris and acted as dams

One of the things that really was irksome the next few days as we helped our neighbors clean up was the sight-seers driving by in their air-conditioned cars  as were were dealing with the mess and the humidity.

car-flood Unfortunately I just took 2 pictures that I can find, the one of a car in an entry-way on Shoal Creek Blvd. and of the muck in the bottom of our swimming pool a few days later when I had pretty much pumped it out.  A picture that I didn’t take but will always remember was a Ford Falcon parked on Treadwell just a few house north of us with a large refrigerator sitting on its hood.  This meant that the water flowing along Treadwell had to be at least 3 feet deep.  Another was a car and a large tree caught in the White Rock box bridge.

Our neighbor next door had their pet dog (a pug) swept away in the flood.

The damage in our area was considerable but was much less than in a couple of other locations down the creek …. near Jefferson and along Lamar from about 12th street south.  Several people died where Jefferson street dips down toward the creek and places like Louis Shank along Lamar lost almost everything.

The Memorial Day flood precipitated several things.  When North Cross Mall was being built, there was a lot of local resistance to the large amount of impervious cover (paved parking as well as buildings) that was part of the project.  Phil Lowell led an effort to show how increased development would cause increasingly worse problems.  His valiant efforts were only marginally successful, as the City did little in having the project modified.  His analysis did result in the a water catchment pond west of MoPac and later the catchment pond that is east of MoPac.  The flood also resulted eventually in the widening and rocking in of the Creek from the bridge south of Northwest Park down to the White Rock and beyond and the replacement of several box bridges with full span bridges (Greenlawn, south of Northwest Park, White Rock and Northland).

The storm was unique in that it dropped about 9 inches of rain in our area in just a couple of hours, but there was little rain west of Mesa and very little rain east of Lamar …. it was very localized.

Yes, there is a flooding possibility in our area, but Allandale is a truly great place to live.

Gary and Donna Vliet